Awards
Periodical Staff Writing for Internal Audiences: University of Washington - 2007 Bronze Medal

Category 27: Periodical Staff Writing for Internal Audiences
University of Washington, University Week

Contact: Nancy Wick, editor, News and Information, Box 351207, B54 Gerberding Hall, Seattle, WA 98195, Phone: (206) 543-2580, e-mail: uweek@u.washington.edu

Introduction: The University of Washington is the flagship public institution of the state. It is a Research One institution with millions of dollars worth of grants, but it also educates about 35,000 students at a time at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

As a state-funded institution, the UW recognizes that it needs the support of the citizens if it is to do its job well. Winning support involves successfully explaining its activities so that the public understands what it is supporting. Therefore, it’s not surprising that great efforts are made to tell the general public what is being done with their money. However, the university also has a combined faculty and staff of about 26,000, each one a potential goodwill ambassador for the university. Therefore, it makes sense to keep those faculty and staff members “in the loop” and proud of their institution — a job for which University Week was created, and one that we take seriously.

Objectives and How We Meet Them: The mission of University Week is to promote excellence and a sense of community among faculty and staff so that they can be good ambassadors for the university. There are three important components to this approach:

  • Information: Although we are weekly, we try to get news about the campus to faculty and staff before they read it in one of Seattle’s two daily newspapers. To accomplish this we work with media relations writers to use their news releases when they are “hot” and sometimes even influence what day the release goes out. We also look for ways to take a fresh angle on stories that have been told elsewhere. We cover internal affairs aggressively and, we feel, better than any other outlet in the Puget Sound.
  • Soliciting Input: We want employees to feel their opinions and concerns are valued and that their voices are heard. Many of the stories we write are about subjects readers have raised and people they tell us about.
  • Recognizing Achievements: Our faculty are frequently honored and often the subject of feature stories about their accomplishments. But we also do profiles of campus people — from custodians to administrators — who are doing interesting and unusual things.

Staffing: As a perennially underfunded public institution, we operate with a very small staff. Fortunately, that staff is extremely dedicated. Two individuals — an editor and an assistant editor — are assigned to the paper. Media relations specialists in the same office write news releases that we sometimes publish, but only if the contents are of interest to faculty and staff. The Health Sciences News and Community Relations Office assigns one of its staff to be the health sciences editor, and media relations staff in that office contribute articles to the health sciences pages. One and one-half photographers are employed at the University and spend some of their time shooting for us. Virtually all of the layout and design is done by the editors.

Frequency: We consider ourselves a weekly, although we do a print version — which is also posted online — only every other week. In the “off” weeks, we publish online only (http://www.uweek.org ). Over the summer we publish both print and online biweekly. There are a total of 20 print editions a year, 35 online editions.

Average Pages per Issue: Between 12 and 20, depending on advertising

Circulation & Audience: About 26,000 paper issues are mailed individually to all faculty and staff. The online edition, which is sent to everyone with a UW NetID, has a somewhat larger audience because it includes community affiliates.

Annual Budget: $60,000

Stories Enclosed

  • Glamour dance: With the popularity of Dancing with the Stars, we were thrilled to find a dance professor who had not only researched competitive ballroom dancing, but had also been a participant.
  • Aloha Inn: When two of our medical students graduated, they left behind a legacy that we wanted to celebrate: a free clinic operating in transitional housing for formerly homeless people.
  • Librarians favored…: Although we don’t generally write directly about students, this story enabled us to tell in a lighthearted way about how librarians were helpful to student learning.
  • Children of War: One of our faculty members became obsessed with drawings done by children in the Spanish American War, and turned this obsession into a public exhibit. This was a case of research that reached out to the public, and we were able to explain how it came about.
  • Google gremlins: We like to use a lighter touch sometimes. When Google News messed up bigtime, our boss took the opportunity to write us a humorous first-person account of the mess